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Un-folk is a genre of contemporary music, essentially popular and melodious, yet characterized by avant-garde elements in phrasing and structure, incorporating instrumental experimentation and borrowing in a multi-cultural way from the folk music in the singer-songwriter tradition.[1] [2] [3]

Un-folk grows out of the urban (and considered urbane) spoken word, poetry, and music scene on New York City's East Village (e.g. combining all three: Patti Smith, Patti Smith Band, Patti Smith and Kevin Shields), where it is known since c. 1985 as anti-folk[4]. However, taken more broadly, the commercial success of this community's notable exemplar, Regina Spektor[3], particularly in supplying un-pop music for commercials, has engendered a certain amount of imitation and crossover, so much so that un-folk now characterizes work of musicians not connected with NYC's lower east Manhattan's club/festival scene.

One such crossover example is the American exposure and use of similar stylings by the French-Tunisian/Israeli singer-songwriter Yael Naim, brought to the wider audience by Apple Inc. television ads introducing the Apple MacBook Air. The singular choice of music was strategic, in that it was made by CEO Steve Jobs himself.: as the product itself was marketed, the sound had to be familiar, irresistible, folksy, yet unusual and experimental.[2]

For another example, in 2008 un-folk is notably present on the eponymous album released by the Croat-Australian Lenka (Lenka Kripac), an established musician in a new guise of a debuting singer-songwriter, marketed by Epic Records, who after working in Sydney with Decoder Ring now resides on the opposite coast from NYC, in the Silver Lake neighborhood of Los Angeles.[1]

Finally, independently and preceding the New York City/Los Angeles/commercial TV music manifestations of un-folk, in 2006 Italian mandolinist Alessandro Monti released Unfolk, a mostly acoustic collection of musical synthesis in the vein of East-meets-West. It blends actual and pretend ethnic music sort of like John Paul Jones's mandolin work does on Led Zeppelin's "Battle Of Evermore" & "Gallows Pole". It also evokes Celtic jigs much like Kate Bush uses them on her Hounds of Love and Aerial, or John Cale's amplified viola pretty much for the last four decades on its western side of the ledger, and on its eastern side, the ragas of Indian classical music, Arab music and early Venetian lute.[5]

A second Alessandro Monti Unfolk album entitled 'The Venetian Book Of The Dead' featuring English lyrics and vocals by singer-songwriter Kevin Hewick is due for release on February 1st 2010.

References

  1. ^ a b Morgan, Dave (2008-09-23). "Lenka, Lenka: Pop". About the album. Muze. pp. (essay). http://www.walmart.com/catalog/product.do?product_id=10391903. Retrieved 2008-11-09. 
  2. ^ a b "Mac Ad Raises Yael Naim's Profile". Day to Day (essay-abstract, streeming audio radio w/ links to music + artist picture). National Public Radio (USA). 2008-03-21. http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=88415853. Retrieved 2008-11-09. 
  3. ^ a b Ashare, Matt (2006-10-10). "Anti-Folk Hero: Regina Spektor, Avalon, October 6, 2006". The Boston Phoenix (concert review). The Phoenix Media/Communications Group. http://thephoenix.com/Boston/Music/24484-REGINA-SPEKTOR-AVALON/?rel=inf. Retrieved 2008-11-09. 
  4. ^ "NYC Antifolk Founder Lach to Play Hotel Utah". SFGate / San Francisco Chronicle. Hearst Communications Inc.. 2008-11-09. http://events.sfgate.com/san-francisco-ca/events/show/85296898-nyc-antifolk-founder-lach-to-play-hotel-utah. Retrieved 2008-11-09. 
  5. ^ "Alessandro Monti: Unfolk". CD Baby Independent Music. CD Baby. 2006. http://cdbaby.com/cd/alessandromonti. Retrieved 2008-11-08. 

Bibliography

  • Ashare, Matt (2006-10-10). "Anti-Folk Hero: Regina Spektor, Avalon, October 6, 2006". The Boston Phoenix (concert review). The Phoenix Media/Communications Group. http://thephoenix.com/Boston/Music/24484-REGINA-SPEKTOR-AVALON/?rel=inf. Retrieved 2008-11-09. "the biggest influence on her quirky approach to pop seemed to be the years she’d spent studying jazz and the like at the SUNY-Purchase Music Conservatory. Because though it’s the confessional poetics that ground Spektor, it’s her jazz-inflected flights of vocal fancy that set her apart from your average folk singer, and it’s her command of the keyboard that distinguishes her rock band from any of the neo-garage post-punk that’s come out of hip Brooklyn since the Strokes first started making noise. Spektor also stood up to play guitar for the solo part of her set. And she saved her more straightforward songs for the second half, when her keys were joined by bass, guitar, and drums. But it’s her voice that’s right up front in the mix in “Fidelity,” the opening track of her latest, Begin To Hope (Sire), as she twists and turns the phrase “And it breaks my heart” with such glee that she almost seems to be recommending unrequited love. And it was her voice that made her Avalon’s reigning anti-folk hero." 
  • "Mac Ad Raises Yael Naim's Profile". Day to Day (essay-abstract, streeming audio radio w/ links to music + artist picture). National Public Radio (USA). 2008-03-21. http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=88415853. Retrieved 2008-11-09. "Naim says that she was surprised to see how the song was used in the ad, but thought it was fitting for it to be used in a computer commercial: 'Today, computers help us making the music,' she says. 'It's really a tool.' "New Soul" is about self-reflection. She says she was inspired to write it after a conversation with a friend about reincarnation. 'I thought I was an old soul, and that I knew life, but then starting the real life I figured I am completely new,' Naim says. 'I mean, everything was a mess and I did a lot of mistakes. So it was just looking back and say, Okay, let's start again, it's okay.' ... When asked which language feels most comfortable for her, she says one isn't better than the others; they're just different. 'English is really free for me; there's no limits to the music and the imagination,' she says. 'And French, it's just I live in Paris, and it's really a poetic language where you can really play with words. Hebrew is my first language, so it's really the most personal and the most simple. When I write in Hebrew, I don't look for sophistication in music; it's just pure emotion that comes out.'" 
  • Morgan, Dave (2008-09-23). "Lenka, Lenka: Pop". About the album. Muze. pp. (essay). http://www.walmart.com/catalog/product.do?product_id=10391903. Retrieved 2008-11-09. "Lenka combines a light, airy soprano with an eclectic mix of electronic beats and effects, horns and guitars. Her piano playing is more theatrical than bluesy, and owes a small debt to Elton John. Such variety is refreshing, and the development of classic cabaret stylists in the 21st century owes both satellite radio and the ubiquitous Internet a debt. We all reap the benefit. While the demise of 'local' music scenes is widely decried, this is more an effect of expanded communications. Movements and ideas that evolve in one locality quickly migrate and develop. The result is what we hear on Lenka, inspired, innovative and interesting music that has many sources and owes nothing to orthodoxy or AM radio." 
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